What is Dark Psychology?

Dark Psychology Introduction

Dark psychology is the art and science of manipulation for controlling people’s perceptions and behavior. Some people possess the innate ability to manipulate others. There are at least three personality types that have retained the congenital ability to con people. Jointly, they make the “Dark Triad.”

The Dark Triad incorporates these traits:

Machiavellianism: Named after an Italian philosopher and writer Machiavelli, Machiavellianism refers to a personality trait of a person who is so focused on his interests that he uses deception, manipulation, and exploitation to achieve his goals. These ruthless people get their work done by hook or crook. No moral code can hinder their way.

Narcissism: Narcissism represents a condition of great self-love with a disregard for others’ welfare. Narcissists lack empathy, have a grandiose sense of self-worth, and are egotists.

Psychopathy: Psychopathy incorporates all the traits of the other two members of the Dark Triad. On top of that, psychopaths are impulsive, unfeeling, and more selfish than the other two. They are also more skilled than the others in finding and consuming their targets. You may find more information about psychopathy on this page.

Dark psychology and manipulation

Manipulation is the core feature of dark psychology. It refers to an attempt by the manipulator to alter the target’s behavior for achieving a goal in the manipulator’s interest.

While we all use manipulation at some point or another, manipulation through dark psychology presents the problem. We may all influence and deceive others, and sometimes it can be a defense strategy. Manipulation isn’t inherently harmful, and we can also exercise it to bend the world around us to our will in constructive ways. Advertisement is also a kind of manipulation. But the intention makes a difference.

Dark psychology and manipulation work in interpersonal relationships as well as on a grand scale. But we must be capable of drawing a line between sinister manipulation and a positive one.

Advertisement, for example, is a form of manipulation because we’re trying to influence other people. You can employ it to raise charities as well as sell scams. But it is hard to believe the advertisement because it is inherently biased.

The subliminal advertisement goes to such an extent that it tries to seed an idea or the product in the mind of the target, below the threshold of sensation and conscientiousness. It is perceived by the target without being aware of it.

It’s upon us how we implement manipulation. We can use it to further a cause or our interest with an absolute disregard for others’ feelings. We can use manipulation to support others. On top of that, we need to understand dark psychology and manipulation to guard against others’ manipulation.

Kahlil Gibran said,

“Those who understand us, enslave something in us.”

This is how it works. The more we recognize someone’s behavior, the more we have control over them. We can manipulate not only the person but an entire situation. Recognizing other people’s manipulating behaviors not only protects us from their influence, but we can also utilize this information to further our interest.

While it’s crucial to recognize situations where you may encounter manipulation, it’s equally noteworthy to detect how others can manipulate you.

It’s also noteworthy to understand our opponents’ goals and how they’re manipulating us to achieve their goals. For this, we should have the ability to place ourselves in the shoes of the target. From an objective standpoint, we should also look at our vulnerabilities and tender spots.

Dark Psychology Fundamentals

Here are some of the basic concepts of dark psychology so that you can fully understand it, employ it to further your interests, and avoid manipulation of others.


Your Goals

While others are already manipulating you, and you’re also manipulating others to some degree, the first step in your strategy should be to define your goals. If you don’t define your goals, it’s impossible to calculate the effectiveness of your efforts.

That’s not to say you are not taking advantage of others with effectiveness. Some people are natural manipulators, and some can become one.

Watch every situation and ask yourself whether the way you treat others matches your opinion of them. If it doesn’t, you know that you’re making efforts to win the heart of people you think to hold power and influence.

You may have an established goal, for example, to acquire a managerial position in your company. Or you can be just trying to impress your co-workers. You may want to shed responsibility and obscure your inefficiency. These are mere conjectures. But if you think about your goals by looking at your actions, you may surprise yourself at the end of the day.

Based on your goals, you should scrutinize your actions. Thinking about whether such actions could steer me to achieve my goal will help the best.

Don’t stop reading yet. There is much more to follow for a comprehensive understanding of dark psychology. Watch out for snakes in the grass.

The goals of others

While your goals are key to measuring your actions’ success, understanding the goals of others is the gateway to forming a successful manipulation strategy.

Dark psychology and manipulation are all about using others’ goals to further your own.

This is the gist of dark psychology, and probably this article also.

You can help others achieve their goals. In turn, it can also drive your success. There is no element of manipulation here. It’s just a manifestation of how your goals can relate to those of others. Manipulation is when you cultivate a situation where actions that were taken by others for achieving their goals align with your interests.

Take the fact into account that most people are unclear about their goals, not to speak of yours. All you have to do is to understand others better than they understand themselves. That’s exactly how dark psychology works.


Actions define a person. Repeated actions are the most significant thing to look for in dark psychology. Actions can range from a singular facial expression to speech, decisions, and acts of violence. Actions represent a reflection of the inner-self of the person in question.

Dark Psychology Tools


Persuasion is a subtle form of manipulation and a sophisticated tool in dark psychology. The only problem is it is easily noticed. People know you have an incentive to convince them to take a particular route. They know that you stand for your benefit, and it can prove unhealthy when the other party is close to you and deadly when you’re trying to manipulate your adversaries.

Persuasion has a chance when you’re providing unknown information to the other party. If they shift their course based on your information, persuasion becomes most useful for you. Whether they change their goals or their course of action, it’s a win-win situation for you.

The other situation is when they believe your goals positively impact their goals, too, leading them to trust your judgment and alter their cause in your favor.

If you possess any supplementary information to reveal to the other party, that would be great. In another scenario, you can enjoy the trust of the other party. If you don’t have either, you’ll have to resort to deception. In this way, you’ll tell lies and fabricate facts to serve your purpose and gain others’ trust. You can also conceal elements and reveal a partial truth for persuading them to follow the route in your favor.


Deception can be defined as the control of information.

It’s also the core element of dark psychology and manipulation techniques.

People who master dark psychology are in the habit of thinking of people as machines. The machine is designed to perform tasks (outputs) through the use of inputs. Information becomes input in this case. If you control the information or change the input, you will have a different output from machines (in this case, humans).

The control of information for generating desired actions is deception. In this way, you will have an output of your desire if you control the input.

The reason deception constitutes the core of dark psychology is that it causes people to believe they’re furthering their interests. While in reality, it’s the other way around. People struggle and invest resources to further their cause, but they end up serving your cause.

But deception isn’t ideal even when it comes to dark psychological manipulation. The principal danger that persists is the fear of discovery. Therefore, the ideal situation is to control it carefully.

An ideal deception bears the minimal risk of being discovered coupled with a massive reward. A safe route of plausible deniability should also be there. If you have to tell further lies to enclose the previous ones, the situation becomes indeed worse. In this scenario, the reward remains the same while danger swells and multiplies. A brilliant idea could turn into a nightmare.

Irrational Behavior in Dark Psychology

Until now, we have assumed that both parties act rationally. This may not always be the case, but it is a good assumption overall. What may appear abnormal or irrational to you, is often the case of unexpected goals.

It should be of little or no interest to you whether other people’s actions are rational or not. However, the volatility of their actions should be of your interest. What is more important is you observe their actions and then determine their goals based on those actions.

For instance, an office co-worker may be performing his work half-heartedly, in a sluggish manner. He may not be going the extra mile to achieve a prime position in the company or impress his boss. It may seem irrational to you only if you believe his goal is to advance his career. You may not know his primary goal is to pursue a love interest in the office. He may have other sources of income as well. In either case, his actions are not irrational at all. It’s just that he is focused on another goal that may not be visible to you. It scarcely matters whether his other goal is rational or not.

Irrational behavior is cognitive failure to pursue actions that can help achieve one’s goals.

In another scenario, a person might have repeatedly declared that he wanted to become the company’s CEO. If he is not pursuing his goal actively, we can say his behavior is irrational.

Irrational behavior represents the failure of human instinct. It’s by and large a mistake or a lack of understanding. It is dissimilar from the lack of information because, in this case, while someone can still commit a mistake, it’s rational based on the knowledge available to them.

Another splendid example of irrational behavior is the lottery. While it is apparent to everyone how unlikely it is for a single ticket to win, people play it in the hope of winning big. It is something in human instinct that compels us to gamble for a possible reward.

Social media websites also use a similar strategy. They’ve discovered that an endlessly scrolling feed is a way to pierce into the inner minds of humans. People keep scrolling down the page, hoping the content of their interest will appear. Social media apps manipulate this irrational behavior of people to keep them scrolling for longer. The more time spent on a website, the more the website’s chance to display ads to people.

While it may be hard to identify a pattern in irrational behavior, it is possible. Irrational behavior isn’t completely random, and you can find it if you focus more on people’s actions.

It’s critical to accept the possibility of irrational behavior, identify it, and employ it to manipulate people to further your interests. This is what dark psychology is all about.


High Ranker is a self-taught psychologist and a freelance writer. He graduated in botany and likes to describe himself as a nature lover. He spends most of his time exploring different subjects and navigating existing academic research. He has a profound interest in health sciences and issues related to scientific research. When he's not writing something, you can find him talking to random people, reading a book, or gardening at home.

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